(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Commemorative tributes to John La Farge, Edwin Austin Abbey, Francis Davis Millet"

COMMEMORATIVE TRIBUTES TO 

LAFARGE, ABBEY, AND 

MILLET 

N 

40 2 By THOMAS HASTINGS 

: 

1922 READ AT 

WMA A 

iNimn SION FOLLOWING ANNUAL MEETING OF 

E AMERICAN ACADEMY OF 

ARTS AND LETTERS 

NEW YORK CITY 

DECEMBER 13, 1912 

REPRINTED FROM VOL. VI 
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ACADEMY 




AMERICAN ACADEMY OF 

ARTS AND LETTERS 

1922 



K 

us rfss 

COMMEMORATIVE TRIBUTES TO 

JOHN LAFARGE 
EDWIN AUSTIN ABBEY 
FRANCIS DAVIS MILLET 

By THOMAS HASTINGS 

READ AT 
PUBLIC SESSION FOLLOWING ANNUAL MEETING OF 

THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF 

ARTS AND LETTERS 

NEW YORK CITY 

DECEMBER 13, 1912 

REPRINTED FROM VOL. VI 
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ACADEMY 




oMnssww*" 1 



H PG LIBRARY 



i 



mU^st 



AMERICAN AC 

u 

art! and letters 



' ctiffiSONIAN INSTITUTION 



HUfi 



Copyright, 1913, 1922, by 
The American Academy of Arts and Letters 



THE DE VINNE PRESS 
NEW YORK 



LA FARGE, ABBEY, MILLET 

By Thomas Hastings 

While here assembled, let us pay 
tribute to the distinguished services of 
three members of this Academy who 
have recently been taken from us : 
John La Farge, Edwin Austin Abbey, 
and Francis Davis Millet. As they 
lived in their work, they are still alive 
in the influence their untiring endeav- 
ors have produced upon modern art. 
They have helped to quicken within us 
our sense of beauty, and to aid us to 
understand better its uplifting and re- 
fining influences. Such lives largely 
contribute to the happiness of their 
fellow-men. Those of us who enjoyed 
personal intercourse with them must 



ACADEMY NOTES 



2 


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 




realize how they themselves found hap- 
piness in their work ; they were happy 
temperamentally, and so imparted hap- 
piness to others. There was another 
inherent quality of character of which 
they all had full measure — that enthu- 
siasm which made all intercourse with 
them interesting and stimulating. It 
was the enthusiasm of the real artist, 
the enthusiasm which stimulates the 
creative faculties and intuitively quick- 
ens the insight and understanding. 
When we find the experience and 
knowledge which come with age stim- 
ulated by an enthusiasm which does not 
grow old under these conditions, men 
have retarded their declining years and 
have often produced their best work 
late in life. The flowing stream never 
becomes stagnant. While a man's in- 
terest in the opportunities of life con- 
tinues, the possibilities of productive- 
ness are unlimited. We may think that 
by observation we have learned what 




ACADEMY NOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 


3 


to expect of one another, but if we still 
have enthusiasm, we need know no 
limitations in what we may expect of 
ourselves. The loss of enthusiasm is 
the end of the artist's career. 

John La Farge was a young old 
man. He was born in Xew York in 
March, 1835. His father was a 
Frenchman, an officer in the navy, 
who, in 1806, took part in an expedi- 
tion to Santo Domingo, where he mar- 
ried the daughter of a planter who is 
said to have had some skill as a minia- 
ture-painter. John La Farge married 
Margaret M. Perry, the granddaugh- 
ter of Commodore O. H. Perry. In 
his early life La Farge undertook the 
study of law; but, always attracted to 
art, it was not long before he devoted 
himself wholly to the study of paint- 
ing. At that time, while in Newport, 
he studied under William Morris 
Hunt. The charm of some of his early 




AXD MONOGRAPHS 





4 


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 




landscapes, painted there and while he 
was studying with Couture in Paris, is 
well remembered by those of us who 
have seen them at our current exhibi- 
tions. 

It was in the early seventies that he 
first began experimenting in glass 
that afterward resulted in his ingen- 
ious and well-known new methods of 
construction and use of materials, with 
their accompanying brilliancy of color. 
His work in this direction made a re- 
markable impression upon American 
glass. Through all the years of glass- 
working he continued to paint, produc- 
ing many important decorations, more 
especially in some of our churches. 
An event in his life was when H. H. 
Richardson commissioned him to dec- 
orate Trinity Church in Boston. Later, 
his work appeared in the Church of the 
Ascension, the Church of the Paulist 
Fathers, the Brick Church, and the St. 




ACADEMY NOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 



Thomas's Church that was destroyed 
by fire. 

In 1886, La Farge went to Japan 
with his friend Mr. Henry Adams, and 
afterward to the South Sea Islands. 
His correspondence, which later ap- 
peared in the Century Magazine, 
established him in the minds of the 
public as a writer of unusual natural 
ability. In his later work as a literary 
man he showed an unusual degree of 
versatility and flexibility of mind. For 
those of us who know well the extent 
and unusual quality and merits of the 
man's talents, it is futile at this time 
to comment further upon his under- 
takings, his drawings, his water-colors, 
his paintings, his glass, or his writ- 
ings, or to attempt to enumerate the 
many honors he received during his 
long and successful life — honors not 
only from his own country, but from 
France, England, and Germany. Had 
we time, we would rather dwell upon 



AND MONOGRAPHS 



THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 



him as our friend and fellow-Acade- 
mician, a remarkable character, an 
artist-philosopher. Those of us who 
knew him would agree, I believe, that. 
when all else had been said, to know 
him and to talk with him was to find 
La Farge at his best. He was indeed 
an artist in conversation, a man of 
ideas, with as brilliant a coloring in his 
personality as in his painting. His talk. 
drawn from his broad experience, was 
always full of suggestion, delightful 
in anecdote and incident, with a pro- 
found sense of humor, and a literary 
quality of great refinement unusual 
even in written form. 

From the time of Benjamin West 
until John S. Sargent, there has al- 
ways been a considerable number of 
self-expatriated American artists who 
have given renown to American art in 
Europe. Edwin Austin Abbey was 
unquestionably one of the most illus- 



ACADEMY XOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 


7 - 


trious of this number. He was born in 
Philadelphia, April I, 1852, a grand- 
son of Roswell Abbey, a prosperous 
merchant, who was also an inventor of 
type-foundry appliances and a man of 
decided artistic temperament. He was 
the son of William Maxwell Abbey, 
who was likewise a Philadelphia mer- 
chant, and something of an amateur 
artist. 

In 1866, when only fourteen years 
of age, Abbey published his first 
drawings in Oliver Optic's paper, Our 
Boys and Girls. During the early 
years of his life he was a student in the 
Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. 
Coming to New York at the age of 
twenty, he quickly developed, and was 
soon after employed by Harper s 
Magazine. Here he acquired a re- 
markable facility as a draftsman in 
black and white. His distinguished 
work as an illustrator gave him at an 
unusually early age a wide and popu- 




AND MONOGRAPHS 





8 


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 




lar reputation. Even at this time Old- 
World legends had a potent influence 
upon his character and the general di- 
rection of his work. In his portrayal 
of old songs and ballads, as well as in 
his illustrations of historic characters, 
he seemed to bring to life and to make 
real the finest fancies of English lit- 
erature. She Stoops to Conquer, 
The Deserted Ullage, Herrick's 
poems, and Shakespeare's plays, were 
brought into a new light by the facile 
pen of the young artist. It was per- 
haps this special interest in English lit- 
erature that, in 1883, influenced him 
to make his residence in England. 

At frequent intervals his work, more 
especially his drawings, pastels, and 
water-colors, has been shown both 
here and abroad at the exhibitions of 
the numerous societies to which he be- 
longed. It always attracted the ad-' 
miration of a large and appreciative 
audience. It was not until 1895, 




ACADEMY XOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 



through the influence of Charles F. 
McKim, that he was commissioned to 
paint his first important decoration, 
the well-known series of panels, The 
Holy Grail, for the Boston Public Li- 
brary, which, with Sargent's notable 
decorations in the same building, have 
become renowned as perhaps the most 
remarkable mural decorations ever 
painted by American artists. Not only 
did he show in this comparatively new 
undertaking his great ability as a 
painter, but he fulfilled to the utmost 
what his earlier work had promised — 
a studious conscientiousness in all mat- 
ters of detail, with a remarkable ca- 
pacity for research into the costumes 
and customs of past ages. 

In 1890 he married Gertrude Mead 
of New York, and for many years they 
lived in Fairford, Gloucestershire, 
England, surrounded by a most artis- 
tic atmosphere. 

In 1901 he was commissioned by 



AND MONOGRAPHS 



10 


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 




King Edward VII to paint for Buck- 
ingham Palace the official picture of 
the coronation. From that time the 
greater part of his life was devoted to 
painting-, his last and most recent work 
being three important decorative pan- 
els for the State House at Harrisburg, 
in his native State. Unfortunately, he 
did not live to see this work com- 
pleted. 

In this country many honors and uni- 
versity degrees were conferred upon 
him, and he was the recipient of many 
foreign decorations, and in 1898 he 
was made a Royal Academician. His 
last vear was the sixtieth of his life, 
and judging from the progressive ex- 
cellence of his work and the vitality 
and enthusiasm of the man, there was 
every promise of even greater and finer 
results if he had lived longer to reap 
more fully the benefits of experience 
and his constant and untiring habits 
of work. 




ACADEMY NOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 



1 1 



An unparalleled event in the his- 
tory of navigation was the founder- 
ing of the great steamship Titanic. 
Francis Davis Millet was one of her 
passengers. In mid-ocean, under a 
starlit sky, which had dissolved the 
darkness of the night, he must have 
seen the last of this world. Amid the 
confusion and debris of the sinking 
ship, he could see only an unbroken 
horizon over the waters of the Atlan- 
tic, a circle on the earth's surface, em- 
blem of eternal life. Thinking more 
of the safety of others than of him- 
self, our friend was taken from us in 
the fullness of his power. I know 
of no other American artist who has 
served such high and varied purposes 
with such unselfish devotion to the 
interests of American art, and with 
such an untiring capacity for work, 
unhesitatingly sacrificing his time for 
the good of others. Indeed, he was 
so public-spirited that I have often 



AND MONOGRAPHS 



12 


THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 




thought he gave himself so freely 
that his unselfishness seriously inter- 
fered with his own private interests 
in life. 

Though gentle and unassuming, he 
was a leader of men, an educator of 
men. He would have succeeded in 
whatever he might have undertaken. 
He had a singular gift for making 
friends. To know him was to love 
him. He had a remarkable fund of 
interesting information on the widest 
variety of subjects. 

We were members together of the 
Xational Fine Arts Commission in 
Washington, where I learned to know 
what a delightful privilege it was to 
work with him. Intellectually he was 
somewhat inclined to wander, being 
often drawn into other channels than 
art. 

He was born at Mattapoisett, Massa- 
chusetts, in November, 1846. He was 
the youngest man of sixty-six I have 




ACADEMY NOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 



J 3 



ever known. During the Civil War he 
was a drummer in the 50th Massachu- 
setts Regiment. In 1869 he was grad- 
uated from Harvard, later associating 
himself with Boston journalism, and 
devoting what spare time he could find 
to the study of art. It was not long 
before he went to Europe and entered 
as a student in the Royal Academy of 
Antwerp, where he made great prog- 
ress and showed much promise. He 
then traveled widely, returning to Bos- 
ton to assist La Farge in his work in 
Trinity Church. 

For his brilliant services as corre- 
spondent for the New York and Lon- 
don papers in the Russo-Turkish War, 
and for bravery on the battle-field, he 
was decorated by the czar. Later he 
was sent as a war correspondent to the 
Philippines. He was chairman of the 
Advisory Committee of the National 
Museum, a member of the Municipal 
Art Commission of New York, a trus- 



AND MONOGRAPHS 



'4 



THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 



tee of the Metropolitan Museum of 
Art. secretary of the American Fed- 
eration of Arts, and member of the 
National Fine Arts Commission. He 
had recently been appointed the execu- 
tive officer of the United American 
Academy and the American School of 
Classical Studies at Rome, and was 
returning on the Titanic after visit- 
ing Rome in the interest of this insti- 
tution. It seemed a fitting place for 
him. with his unusual ability for or- 
ganization. 

In 1879 ne married Elizabeth Gree- 
ley Merrill. While their home was in 
Broadway. Worcestershire, England,, 
his life in recent years was spent mostly 
between Washington, New York, and 
Rome. With all this time given to 
traveling and public affairs, it seems 
almost incredible that he could have 
produced so much in painting, which 
was the actual means of his livelihood. 
He had traveled extensivelv all over 



ACADEMY NOTES 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS 


l S 


the world, and spoke nearly all of the 
principal languages of Europe. 

In 1 89 1 he made a canoe trip the 
full length of the Danube for Harper 
Brothers, who published his book en- 
titled The Danube from the Black 
Forest to the Black Sea. About the 
same time appeared his collection of 
short stories and his translation of 
Tolstoi's Sebastopol. 

In recent years he devoted a great 
deal of time to decorations. The his- 
torical paintings in the capitol at St. 
Paul, the decorations in the custom- 
house at Baltimore, and a historical 
decoration in the court-house at New- 
ark, Xew Jersey, are among his most 
important later works. 

Few men enjoyed life as he did, and 
few men gave more enjoyment to 
others. He will be missed, and no one 
man can be found to fill his place — 
alas, so many places ! 

Millet was a strong, intelligent man 


• 


AXD MONOGRAPHS 





i6 



THE AMERICAN ACADEMY 



of character, with a sweetness and sim- 
plicity almost childlike. His nature was 
joyous, which attracted men to him, 
and always assured him their collab- 
oration in whatever work he under- 
took. 



John La Farge died November 14, 1910; 
Edwin Austin Abbey died August 1, 191 1 ; 
Francis Davis Millet died April 15, 191 2. 



OF ARTS AND LETTERS